In the new state budget, a victory for voters

The final 2019-20 budget, approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor, includes $11.3 million for new election equipment in time for 2020.

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Nebraska’s 2019-20 budget has been approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor. It’s a $9.3 billion budget allocated to thousands of different priorities. Major areas were property tax cuts, education, and public safety, but we wanted to make sure you knew about a smaller but very significant victory in the budget – funding for new election equipment.

In 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA. It was passed largely in response to the public confidence catastrophe that was Bush v. Gore in 2000. Members of Congress from both parties recognized that, regardless of political affiliation, public trust in elections was dramatically shaken by the “hanging chad” crisis in Florida.

The Help America Vote Act appropriated significant amounts of money to states to make improvements to their election systems. Recognizing that the physical equipment to cast and count ballots is essential to keeping our elections safe and accessible, Nebraska spent the bulk of that money on new election equipment – counting machines and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant voting machines – in 2005.

That equipment had a roughly 15-year lifespan, so we’ve known for a while that replacement would be necessary before the 2020 election to avoid miscounts, equipment failure, or other events that can significantly disrupt Election Day. But because the HAVA grant is not recurring, and because many counties simply cannot bear the financial burden of purchasing and maintaining their own equipment, replacing them would require significant state money.

Thanks to tremendous work by the Secretary of State’s Office, the Appropriations Committee, and the Legislature as a whole, the final 2019-20 budget included $11.3 million for new election equipment. About half of this money is for new ballot-counting machines, and half is for new ADA-compliant voting machines.

We offer our heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in advocating for, allocating, and approving this new funding. These new machines will be essential to keeping our elections secure, accessible, and fair.

— Westin Miller, Policy and Communications Associate

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